Tuesday, January 24, 2012

State of the Race: The Oscar Nominees

Best Picture
I broke the one rule I have now developed when it comes to the Oscars: Never ever doubt Stephen Daldry. While he did not manage a director's nod, his latest film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close made the cut for Best Picture despite terrible reviews. I had kept it in the running for months, and in the last couple of wekks changed my tune. Bad mistake. To be honest, this is a new low for the Academy. Its reviews are terrible, and it really wasn't a great film. The other surprise, although a lot less shocking is the nomination for The Tree of Life. Many people had been saying that with its passionate supporters, it could garner enough support to make it in. Despite guild support (which goes for ELAIC as well), those that loved the movie were able to work the preferential system in their favor and get their films in. War Horse also managed to get in, but I actually (at the last minute) put it back into the running. Beyond that the ones we expected: The Artist, The Help, Hugo, Moneyball, Midnight in Paris, and The Descendants all made the cut. The biggest surprise for me, was the total of nine nominations. Considering they didn't have to fill out to 10 this year, I really was surprised that they almost got there. It means either this is a great year for movies (debatable), or the Academy was really trigger happy when they expanded their nominating powers. I personally got 7 out of my 8 right, but missed Extremely Loud and Tree of Life.

Snubs - Obviously, considering their guild support, Bridesmaids and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo didn't make the cut over The Tree of Life and ELAIC who managed to be excluded from the guilds. On a personal note, I would have loved HP72, Drive to get in, although the technical nods for both were nice. Tinker, Ides of March, and others (I am blanking at this moment), also didn't make the cut, but they were not expected to, although both of those films got some below the line nods.

Best Director
The four we expected, Allen, Hazanavicius, Payne and Scorsese all made the cut. No surprises here. Then came the last one. The Help, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo had been passed, so no Fincher or Taylor. I personally thought it was going to be Spielberg. But low and behold, the prophecy of so many Oscar pundits came true. Terrence Malick was able to overcome the lack of precursor nods, and his passionate supporters were able to get him in. While this isn't shocking, it is still a surprise, and shows that they loved the film. I got 4/5 missing Malick for Taylor.

Snubs - Taylor and Fincher were already mentioned. Refn, Yates, Clooney, Miller, Reitman, Alfredson, were also snubbed. And to be honest, Malick's "vision" was sloppy and myriad and not focused and clear. But I was okay with the nod compared to someone like Daldry getting in again for a less than worthy effort.

Best Actor
The three we expected, Clooney, Pitt, and Dujardin got their nods. I was absolutely thrilled with the Gary Oldman nomination, and thrilled I actually predicted it. He has been a hard working actor for years, and has been stellar in underrated roles. He finally gets his first Oscar nomination, and it is well deserved and long over due. When the SAG nominations came out, the inclusion of Demian Bichir was a shock to say the least. Like many, I did not know if he would have enough support beyond the actors branch to make it to the Oscar realm. By by God, he did it. Probably the SAG nod led others in the Academy to watch A Better Life, and realize just how good he was. It was a nice surprise. I got 4/5 missing Bichir for Dicaprio.

Snubs - The most obvious is Michael Fassbender. Despite GG, BFCA, and BAFTA love, it is clear that the problems regarding the sexual nature of the film and the NC-17 rating prevented him, Carey Mulligan, and the script from getting any love. Leonardo Dicaprio was also snubbed, but so was J. Edgar across the board. Finally, names like Michael Shannon, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and others who were outside shots were also left off the list.

Best Actress
I would like to take this moment to say something. I liked Fincher's Dragon Tattoo, and I think that Rooney Mara did a great job. That being said, the fact that she got a nomination and Noomi Rapace didn't last year, and the fact that the American version got other nods which the original Swedish version did not. It just seems off to me. Okay now back to the nominations. Rooney Mara did get in, and congratulations to her, but she did not replace Glenn Close as expected. Instead she replaced Tilda Swinton, who has missed out three years in a row for her brilliant performances. No offense, but this truly is a travesty. I got 4/5 missing Mara for Swinton

Snubs - Swinton, obviously, but I would also add Charlize Theron, Kristen Wiig, Emma Stone, and Elizabeth Olsen to names that were left off.

Best Supporting Actor
If I had known that there was still a lot of support for Extremely Loud, I would have stuck with my initial hunch at the beginning of the season and gone with Von Sydow. But alas, he did get in despite lack of precursor support he got in. The other four, were my predictions, and considering their strength at SAG were expected to get in. 4/5 missing Brooks for von Sydow.

Snubs - Of course this means that Albert Brooks was left off. I am just as frustrated as any of you, but as I mentioned in my predictions, this was definitely a possibility considering both SAG and BAFTA left him off. He was truly the critics' darling, but for some reason, despite his veteran status, could not get the industry's support. I would have also been thrilled with Andy Serkis, Ezra Miller, Patton Oswalt, and Alan Rickman.

Best Supporting Actress
Nothing really to discuss here as the five nominees at SAG repeated. I am personally thrilled by the Melissa McCarthy nomination, as I think comedy at that level is hard to do, and she truly is the year's entertainment darling.

Snubs - There were six women, and I am personally sorry for Shailene Woodley who gave such a vibrant performance in The Descendants. But she is young and hopefully has an incredible career ahead of her.

Original Screenplay was a tough call for me when predicting, but I thought all five nominees were deserving, particularly the including of Margin Call, for first timer JC Chandor. But this was a stacked category and incredible scripts like Beginners, Win Win, Young Adult, and others were left off. The biggest snub for me though, and the one I can't seem to shake is the exclusion of 50/50. It truly was the best original screenplay of 2011, and its exclusion is dreadful. On the adapted side, the most obvious exclusion was The Help which did not do well beyond it acting nominations, meaning it truly was all about the performances. Dragon Tattoo also missed in favor of The Ides of March and Tinker Tailor, which I am happy to say I predicted. I figure the unknown British block of voters would get Tinker in somewhere, and it did in the two top categories I predicted. In Original I was 3/5 missing A Separation and Margin Call for Win Win and 50/50, and in adapted I was 4/5 missing Ides for The Help.

The animating branch of the Academy hates motion capture. They, like many of us, feel that it is not animination, but a form of live action. This explains how the Globe and PGA winner Tintin missed the cut. They did not want to continue to hold of the charade that motion capture can be lumped in with their profession in order to avoid having to deal with it on a live action arena. That being said it is still a surprise, and paves the way for Rango to take the prize. I was thrilled I got the Chico & Rita nod, but like most of us, was surprised to see  A Cat in Paris also make it. I do have to say I am proud that the Animators are not afraid to reward their own blockbusters and efforts (Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots), as well as foreign efforts as well. Also it is worth mentioning this is the first time that a Pixar film did not receive a nomination. Hopefully they have learned from the Cars 2 fiasco, and Brave will restore the studio's greatness.

I haven't had too much time to peruse this list, but some interesting choices, like no Tree of Life in Visual Effects despite BP nod. Also the score for Dragon Tattoo (Seriously the best thing about the film) was snubbed. War Horse picked up some steam here, but not for Editing despite an Eddie nod. The Descendants also got the editing, showing at least one craft nomination which helps its BP contenders. Moneyball also got some tech nods, and it is with War Horse with six across the board, a nice showing for an untechnical film. Some nods are still headscratchers like Real Steel getting in (Alhtough not completely undeserved). Also while not too satisfactory, to see my two favorite films, Drive and HP72 at least get something in the techs was nice. On this note, it is worth mentioning that Fight Club's only nod came in Sound Editing like Drive, and it has become a cult classic. In Art Direction and Costume, they went with prettier periods over gritter, and The Help missed both, despite ADG and CDG nominations. With the Makeup nods, I think we might see Harry Potter prevail (although Iron Lady will give it a run for its money), simply as a tip of the hat to the series (a pathetic one at that). Also Super 8 didn't manage either sound category despite guild support, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes only managed a visual effects nomination, meaning most likely HP7 2 or more likely Hugo will prevail in the category. The most confusing is the Original Song. The last couple of years they seem to have tried to phase this category out, and this year, despite some strong contenders, they only nominated two songs. Let me repeat that: TWO SONGS? I have a hunch that by this time next year, this category will cease to exist, which is just wrong if you ask me.

Overall, the preferential system produced 9 nominees, a staggering number. It also favored passionate films like Tree of Life and ELAIC over the more broad based films like Bridesmaids and Tinker Tailor. Overall, I am mixed with these nominations as I am every year. A number of pundits (no names will be mentioned) are going off like it is the end of the world, but most of these were expected, and for every not so pleasant surprise (Extremely Loud), there was a really nice one like Oldman, Bichir, and Malick. Every year, we get a mixed bag. Some people are going to love the nods, some are going to hate them, but most of us fall right in the middle of the pack. This has been Oscar for as long as I have watched it, and the fact that there seems to be a revolt for some is preposterous, and a little bit silly. But I do agree that this preferential system needs to be looked at. I don't mind the possibility of 5 to 10 nods (although I kind of preferred either 5 or 10), but the preferential doesn't show, I think, the Academy's true likes and dislikes as well as other voting ways. For now, the experiment panned out as many had predicted, so, as has become the motto of this season, we have to wait and see what happens next.

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